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Super Simple Water Level Control

PART NO. 2169109

Design a simple water controller in which electrodes are required to sense high and low water levels in a tank. Whenever the water
level falls below the low level electrode, the water pump starts and it stops once the water level touches the high level electrode.
There is a third electrode which is used to detect the water level from the pump suction port tank. If this electrode does not sense
water, then the pump is not allowed to run. This protects it from burning out. Power is obtained from the AC line through an AC-to-AC
Wall transformer. The control electronics and relay work from a 12VDC voltage regulator. It is assumed that you have a water pump
*** Disclaimer: This kit is meant to operate with equipment such as line operated water pumps or motor starter relays and/or
contactors at lower control voltages. Line voltage is dangerous and if mishandled can cause injury or death. If you are not familiar or
have not worked with line operated equipment, have a licensed electrician do the power wiring for you. This kit is meant to be
educational in nature and can be used with line operated equipment if National Electric Code guidelines are followed. ***
Time Required: 1 - 2 hours depending on experience
Experience Level: Intermediate
Required tools and parts:
Soldering iron
Wire stripper and cutter
Needle nose pliers
1 - 100' roll of 24AWG wire (Jameco P/N: 734411)
1 - AC-to-AC wall adapter (Jameco P/N: 2076543)
1 - Small flat screwdriver

Bill of Materials:

Jameco SKU

Component Name


IC, CD4001


PNP Transistor


NPN Transistor


+12V Voltage Regulator






Green LED


2.2 M-Ohm Resistor


120K Ohm Resistor


470 Ohm Resistor


4.7K Ohm Resistor


330uF 35V Capacitor


220uF 25V Capacitor


1uF 25V Capacitor


Connector Terminal block 2 Pos 10A




15K Ohm Resistor


IC Socket

Step 1 - Schemetic diagram

This shows the schematic with circuit component reference numbers

Step 2 - Check parts

Before soldering anything in place, make sure you have all parts required. See parts list. (Extras are OK)
3x - 2.2M ohm 1/4W(R1, R2, R3)
1x - 4.7K ohm 1/4W(R4)
1x - 120K ohm 1/4W(R5)
2x - 470 ohm 1/2W(R6, R7)
1x - 15K ohm 1/4W(R8)
1x - 330uF 63V(C1)
1x - 220uF 25VC2)
1x - 1uF 63VC3)
5x - 1N4004(D1, D2, D3, D4, D5)
1x - CD4001
1x - 7812T(IC2)
1x - Green LED(LED1)
1x - Red LED(LED2)
2x - 2N3904(Q1, Q3)
1x - 2N3906(Q2)
1x - 12V coil Relay(RLY1)
4x - 2 Terminal connector(X1, X2, X3, X4)
1x - Printed Circuit Board
1x - 14pin IC Socket

Step 3 - Solder passive components

Assembly instructions.
1) Solder in R1, R2 and R3 which form part of signal input circuits. These resistors are 2.2M ohm.
2) Solder R4 (4.7K ohm resistor) which is a base resistor for transistor Q3 whose task is to switch on-off relay RLY1.
3) Solder in R5 (120K ohm emitter resistor) for Q1.
4) R8 (15K ohm resistor) that connects Q1 collector to Q2 base. The purpose of these two transistors is to turn on a red LED to give a
visual indication when the water level is low at the pump suction port. Solder in R6 and R7 (470 ohm 1/2W resistors) that are LED1
and LED2 current limiters.
5) Insert electrolytic capacitors C1 (330uF) and C2 (200uF) in their corresponding holes paying attention to the marked up negative
lead of capacitors for polarity before soldering in place. Insert C3 (1uF) decoupling capacitor following the same guidelines as C1 and

Step 4 - Install power supply components and IC socket.

Before installing the diodes, make sure they are properly oriented for polarity. The black band mark on the body of the diode tells you
that lead is the cathode. The printed circuit board should also have a mark indicating the cathode.
Insert D1 rectifier diode in its intended space and solder one lead at a time. Clip on a heat sink between the solder joint and the body
of rectifier. This heat sink will absorb excess heat and keep the semiconductor relatively cool to avoid prematurely shortening its
lifespan. Before soldering the other lead of same semiconductor, wait about 15 to 30 seconds to let the rectifier to cool off before
continuing with the other rectifier leads. Always use a clip-on heat sink before soldering any semiconductor lead. Do the same with
D2, D3 and D4 rectifiers.
Diode D5's function is not meant to operate as a power supply rectifier but is the same device as the previously soldered rectifiers.
Solder diode into D5 location paying attention to where the cathode goes. The function of D5 is to protect transistor Q3 from the
relay's coil kick back voltage when it is de-energized.

Put 7812T in place and before soldering its first lead, use the same clip-on heat sink between the soldering joint and the body of the
regulator. After soldering first lead, wait a few seconds to let the device cool off. Touch the 7812T regulator to make sure it's not too
hot before proceeding with next terminal and so on until you're finished with the third and last terminal of the regulator.
Install the 14-pin IC socket and solder it in place. Use just enough solder for each pin to keep adjacent pins from shorting together
with excess solder. Note the position of the notch on one side.

Step 5 - Verify power supply operation

Using an external +15V DC Power Supply (or two +9V batteries in series) and a couple of alligator clips, connect the (+) output of this
power supply to the anode of D1 and the GND output of the power supply to the cathode of D4. Measure voltage between pins 7
(gnd) and 14 (Vdd) of the IC socket which should be +12V +/- 2%.
If this voltage test proves successful, proceed to next step.

Step 6 - Install transistors and LEDs

Install 2N3904 NPN transistors into Q1 and Q3 positions making sure all terminals go into their corresponding holes. Attach the
clip-on heat sink before soldering each lead with the right amount of solder and wait at least 20 to 30 seconds before moving to next
lead of same device. Do the same with 2N3906 PNP transistor on Q2 position.
Install the green LED into the LED1 position. The shorter lead is the cathode and should go where the cathode lead is marked on the
PCB. If LEDs are reversed they won't turn on. Attach clip-on heat sink to the lead you will solder first, wait 20 to 30 seconds before
soldering the anode. Do the same with the red LED into the LED2 position.

Step 7 - Finish assembly

These connectors come with two terminals each. Install one connector each into X1 and X4 positions and solder in place with the
terminals facing to the edge of the PCB. These connectors come with a sliding lip on one side and a groove on the other. Take the
remaining two connectors and put them together by sliding one connector's lip into the other connector's groove so they stay attached
and insert them into X2 and X3 positions and solder in place with terminals also facing to the edge of the PCB.
Install the relay into RLY1 position and solder it in place. This completes the assembly of this kit.

Step 8 - Final testing

Place your assembled kit on an insulated surface such as a file folder or notebook on your workbench to avoid shorting the solder
joints with conductive material that may be sitting on your work surface. Get a couple of one foot 24AWG segments of wire and strip
the ends. Insert one wire's end into the terminal marked as "Ground", then insert the another wire into the terminal marked as "Pump
level protection" leaving the other ends loose without touching one another.
This is a test with the same DC power supply used in step 4. Connect it the same way to power up the circuit. At this point, the
CD4001 should already be inserted into its socket. Once power is applied to the board and assuming everything was properly
assembled, the red LED should turn on. At this point, if you put together the two stripped ends of the wires previously attached, the
red LED should go out and the green LED should turn on and one click should be heard coming from the relay. Separating the wires'
ends should turn the green LED off and the red LED on while hearing another click from the relay as it de-energizes. This proves the
circuit is working.
Get yourself a small shallow container and fill it up with water. With the circuit still energized, the red LED on and the two wires not
touching to each other, dip both stripped ends into the container with water. The red LED should turn off and the green LED should
turn on with one click heard from the relay. Remove the wires from the water and the green LED should go out, the red LED should
turn on with a click heard from the relay. If this goes as outlined, then it is working properly.

AC-to-AC wall adapter test:

Now it's time to test that the kit will work with 12VAC coming from an AC-to-AC wall adapter such as Jameco P/N: 2076543. Our
pump controller kit does not include a male connector adapter, so cut off the female plug from the wall adapter cord and strip the ends
which should be the 12VAC adapter output. Connect these 12VAC leads into the connector marked as 12VAC IN. Plug the wall
transformer into a wall outlet and the board should perform the same as with the DC power supply. If this is the case, then it's time for
next test.

Water Pump test simulation:

Get another pair of wires of about the same length as the wires already connected to your kit, strip their ends and insert one in the
"Low level" terminal and the other in the "High level" terminal. With the pump protection and ground wires already dipped into the
water container, the green LED should be on. Dip the "low level" wire end into same water and the green LED should still be on, then
dip the "High level" wire also into same water container and the green LED should go out with a click heard from the relay. This
simulates that the pump filled up the water tank. To simulating water consumption as water level goes down, remove the "High level"
wire from the water container and nothing should happen. Then, remove the "low level" wire from the water container and the green
LED should turn on and the relay should energize the water pump and the cycle will repeat.

Step 9 - Final installation

You will need now an external 12VAC wall transformer such as Jameco P/N:2076543 to energize the kit. You will also need a proper
enclosure which can be found in a Jameco catalog. You will have to run wires between the kit and the water tank and pump water
reservoir as shown in the schematic. This schematic shows there are thin metal rods inserted through the walls of the tanks for sake
of simplicity. You can somehow accommodate the rods vertically from the top of the tank making sure that these rods don't touch one
another. If you prefer to drill through the tanks' walls, make sure that the rods or bolts used are properly sealed to avoid leaks due to
pressure from water on the walls of the tank.
Once you do the connections, the controller should work without problems showing when the pump is running or when the pump is
protected due to a low level at the pump suction intake.